April 15, 2011
The fourth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers will compete for a consecutive SEC title when they travel to fifth-ranked Georgia in the regular-season finale Saturday.
Georgia (19-3, 10-0 SEC) leads the conference with a perfect record, but Tennessee (19-3, 9-1) could secure a share of the regular-season title with a win Saturday. A victory would also give the Vols the top seed in next week's SEC Tournament.
The match starts at 3:30 p.m. Eastern at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. A live blog of the match will be available at UTSports.com.
For more news and notes on the weekend match:
Both Tennessee and Georgia are coming off a pair of home victories against South Carolina and Florida. For the Vols, both wins came via a set of decisive 7-0 shutouts.
Tennessee seniors Boris Conkic, Matteo Fago and John-Patrick Smith finished their home careers with a 33-match team winning streak with the whitewash of the Gators. Sophomore Rhyne Williams led the charge in singles with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over 10th-ranked Alexandre Lacroix on court 1, good for his eighth win against a top-10 opponent this season.
Over the weekend, Georgia edged past Florida 4-3 and then swept unranked South Carolina 7-0.
Vols Stay at No. 4
With the two wins, the Vols remained No. 4 in the national rankings, behind Virginia, Ohio State and Southern California.
Individually, four Vols remain in the national singles rankings. Williams leads the way at No. 4 nationally, followed by Smith at No. 13, sophomore Tennys Sandgren at No. 47 and Fago at No. 63.
For the fourth consecutive ranking period, Conkic and Smith remained atop the national doubles list thanks to a 17-0 record in dual matches this spring. Sandgren and Williams, on a three-match winning streak at the No. 2 position, rose three spots to No. 58.
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs have run through conference play unbeaten and have three players in the national singles rankings.
Wil Spencer, winner of the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships in January, leads Georgia at No. 16. Javier Garrapiz is ranked No. 29 and Sadio Doumbia at No. 69. Garrapiz and Doumbia play at the second and third positions respectively.
In doubles, Georgia boasts the only team to have ever beaten Conkic and Smith. Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters are ranked eighth nationally and defeated the Vols' leading duo 8-5 in the final of the SEC Indoors. However, Conkic and Smith won the rematch 9-8 (2) a month later at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
When Last They Met
In February, Tennessee and Georgia squared off in the opening round of the ITA National Indoors in Seattle with the Vols coming away with a 4-2 victory in a classic SEC barnburner.
The doubles point was decided by a tiebreaker victory by Conkic and Smith on court 1, and from there, the Vols got wins from the senior trio on courts 2, 3 and 4. Fago rallied from down a break in the third set to beat Doumbia and clinch the match.
Singles was very close, especially since the Vols played the match shorthanded. Sandgren barely played through his doubles match on court 2 and was scratched because of illness before singles. The sophomore from Gallatin missed the next two days of the national tournament before coming back for the finals.
Going for Perfection
Sandgren enters Saturday with a chance to finish the regular season with an undefeated record in dual matches. He is riding a career-best 18 match winning streak with all but one of those wins coming at the No. 3 position.
Additionally, Sandgren can remain perfect in SEC dual-match play for the second-consecutive season. He has a 20-0 record in his career in regular-season conference matches. He went 10-0 as a freshman on court 4, and he has the opportunity to go 11-0 as a sophomore.
He has a 30-4 overall record, including 23-1 since January.
Conkic and Smith have a career-best 17-match winning streak in doubles, compiling a 21-1 record since January. They are 26-1 together the last two seasons, having teamed up for five matches as juniors to win the 2009 ITA All-American Championships.
While this is their first full season playing together, Conkic and Smith have enjoyed considerable doubles success over their careers. Smith, a two-time NCAA doubles finalist, is Tennessee's career doubles leader with 140 wins, and Conkic ranks fifth with 109.
Fago has 97 career singles victories thanks to a 25-12 start to his final season. He leads the team in career SEC victories with a 33-8 record over his four seasons in SEC dual-match play.
Two current Vols already have 100 career wins: Smith (146) and Conkic (104). Tennessee has never had three active teammates with at least 100 wins.